When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of the U.S. on Monday, it left a wake of devastation. Elizabeth, N.J., was among the communities ravaged by the Superstorm. More than 10,000 people live in each square mile of the city, most in shared housing, and all were affected. Paul and Karen Yuschak, co-pastors of StreetLight (Elizabeth Foursquare Church) didn’t waste any time responding to the needs of their community.

The Yuschaks know from experience what is involved with meeting the needs of Elizabeth’s urban poor. This week, as Sandy roared ashore, some of the mothers and children the church serves were frightened—but not by what you might think.

“At our Sunday night service, we passed out candles in glasses to many of the moms,” Karen explains. “They feared the power being out, because when the lights are on, the rodents stay under cover.”

She notes that when schools are closed, working moms can’t work even if their workplaces are open. Most are paid hourly—no power, no work, no pay. 

“When things are difficult, the poor get poorer,” Karen states.

Juan Galloway, a Foursquare evangelist, operates The Relief Bus, a year-round food ministry that distributed 260,000 servings of food and beverages last year to the poor and needy in New York City. The Relief Bus is ready to serve during this crisis, and volunteers are being mobilized now to make trips into the city as soon as possible. During a crisis such as Sandy, the need is greater than usual, and the number of people who will put their trust in God for the first time could increase significantly.

“We are basically a mobile resource center for those in crisis,” Juan tells foursquare.org. “Hundreds each year receive Christ.”

Paul Yuschak recently completed training offered by Foursquare Chaplains International Disaster Relief Ministry (FCIDRM), equipping him to be a FEMA-approved first responder during natural disasters. Paul and Karen believe this training was timely in light of the arrival of this once-in-a-lifetime storm.

Working alongside Foursquare ministries such as StreetLight and The Relief Bus, FCIDRM and Foursquare Relief and Compassion are teaming up to provide assistance in their areas of expertise. Two task forces of at least 15 Foursquare chaplains are being established for assessment and to help coach local Foursquare leaders as they respond to the needs in their communities.

Jay Donnelly, FCIDRM director and senior pastor of New Life Christian Center (Jackson Foursquare Church) in Sutter Creek, Calif., is working with Foursquare Pastors Art and Sharon Snow of Chestnut Street Community (Roselle Foursquare Church) in Roselle, N.J. Jay says the Roselle church will likely become the base of Foursquare operations in the region for resource distribution and logistical support during the recovery efforts.

“A significant part of our mission will be to provide crisis intervention, spiritual care and one-on-one ministry for the sole purpose of healing the brokenhearted and being the love of Jesus to hurting people,” Jay affirms.

Foursquare Relief and Compassion will provide financial resources through our ministry partners on the ground, as well as coaching for local Foursquare churches and ministries as they reach out to those whose lives have been turned upside-down by this storm. Foursquare Relief and Compassion will also network with other global relief organizations to help establish distribution sites in some of the hardest hit areas of the East Coast.

The Foursquare leaders conducting relief efforts agree that the ministries they lead could never succeed without the faithful prayer support and financial gifts of friends from outside the region.

For more information about supporting these local ministries and churches as they reach out to others, go to give.foursquare.org and click on “Disaster Relief.” Note that checks and donations mailed to the Foursquare central offices need to be marked "Sandy Relief." Funds will be distributed to the churches and ministries that need it most.

Update: Read our most recent news articles related to Superstorm Sandy:

Foursquare Responds to Superstorm Sandy: Update »
Superstorm Sandy Relief Effort: An Update on Foursquare’s Response »